The World Bank and Australia have pledged US$100 million in assistance to improve education for millions of Burmese students.
Representatives from the World Bank signed an agreement on 11 October with Burmese government representatives at the World Bank’s annual meeting in Washington to initiate a project that will provide schooling to some 8.2 million students from poor backgrounds and rural areas in Burma.
The World Bank is to fund some $80 million of the programme, via its International Development Association arm, while Canberra has pledged to make up the remaining $20 million through its Myanmar Partnership Multi-Donor Trust Fund.
Kyaw Soe Lin, the World Bank’s Myanmar information officer told DVB that the funding is geared towards helping schools most in need. “The programme has two parts – the first is to generate more budget for schools, while the second is to provide grants to students to allow them to continue their education,” he said.
“For the first part, all schools under the Ministry of Education will be allocated a higher budget than they currently receive,” he added. “For the second part of the programme, student grants will be implemented in 40 townships, and we intend on selecting those townships with the highest rates of poverty and school drop outs.”
Burma’s Education Minister, Dr Khin San Yi, announced during an education workshop at Rangoon University last month that the government is looking to spend over 110 billion kyat (over $100 million) for education reforms in the 2015-16 fiscal year. According to the minister funding will go towards a variety of areas including mandatory kindergarten, pre-school courses in rural areas, the upgrading of school facilities in border regions, and the introduction of e-libraries.
During his visit to Burma at the beginning of the year, bank President Jim Yong Kim announced plans for a $2 billion dollar funding package for the country.
The World Bank’s activities in Burma have come under scrutiny from human rights groups who are concerned that the organization is not doing enough to address ongoing abuses in the country and failing to ensure proper oversight of the bank’s Burma focused development and infrastructure projects.
“The World Bank has an important role to play in advancing access to education, health, and electricity in Burma. But for it to really advance development, it needs to have its eyes wide open to Burma’s ongoing rights problems and actively work to address them,” said Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Evans in a statement released by the rights watchdog last week on the eve of the banks annual meeting.